When temperatures turn chilly and nights get longer, there’s nothing like indoor blooming plants to brighten up a home and enhance the coziness of winter. Not only do indoor plants provide some welcome air freshening benefits, several winter-blooming plants can brighten up grey, cold days and bring summer cheer into the home.
Keep in mind that several of these plants naturally bloom as night length increases. This photoperiodic blooming requires those nights to be uninterrupted by light in order for flower buds to form. So, plants that are in rooms where they lights are on until midnight won’t set flower. To combat this, you need to make sure the plant is either placed in a closet at night, or you can cover the plant with a box; anything to keep the plant in uninterrupted darkness all night. Just cover the plant when the sun goes down. But be sure to uncover it at dawn!
Here are my favorite winter-blooming plants for the indoor home!
African Violet: African violets come in a wide variety of colors and are a good choice for winter blooming (in fact, they bloom well all year). The secret to getting African violets to bloom is to have them sit in an east facing window. The light there is perfect for plant health and blooming. Set your African violet pots in over-sized trays full of pebbles, making sure to keep water in the tray (when you water from above, the excess water will drain into the pebbles). This will help increase the humidity level of dry winter air. Lastly, you can purchase fertilizer specifically to help African violets bloom! Be sure to follow label directions.
Begonias: Not all begonias bloom indoors; specifically you will need rhizomatous or winter-flowering begonias for winter blooms. Winter flowering begonias are stimulated to bloom by longer nights, making them perfect for winter color. Provide your plants with bright, indirect light during the day, and make sure you let the top 1/2″ of soil dry out between waterings. Over watering won’t only inhibit blooming, it will kill the plant! (In fact, the #1 cause of houseplant demise is over watering.) After the plant blooms, give it a rest by letting the soil dry almost completely, and giving the plant a good pruning.
Bulbs: Forcing bulbs indoors is a wonderful way to bring a bit of spring to the winter home, but a bit of skill is needed. Most bulbs — including tulips, daffodils, hyacinth, iris, and more — require 10 to 16 weeks of chilling at 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit in order to produce blooms. Some bulbs are trickier than others to force indoors. The easier chill-requiring candidates include hyacinth, crocus, and muscari. To learn more about forcing specific bulbs indoors, read this nice publication from the University of Missouri Extension office.
There are, however, two bulbs that do not require chilling before forcing since they originate from tropical climates. These include amaryllis and paperwhite narcissus. For this reason, these two bulbs are highly recommended bulbs to force for winter color. To read the specifics of forcing amaryllis and paperwhite indoors, read this publication from the Iowa State University Extension.
Cyclamen: This potted plant is a common site in florists at shops and grocery stores, and with good reason; the flowers are lovely and blooms come in a variety of colors. The plant also naturally blooms in winter. You can benefit from these positive attributes in your own home, and the flowers last a very long time with a bit of care! To this end keep your cyclamen on a window sill; they like chilly temperatures and will benefit from the cooler temperatures by the window. Ideally temperatures for the happiest cyclamen hover around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Indirect or filtered direct light is best, and keep the soil evenly moist in a well-drained soil.
Christmas Cactus: As the name implies, the natural bloom time for this succulent is late December. As with begonias, Christmas cactus bloom as daylight length decreases. Christmas cactus appreciate bright, indirect light; full sun will burn their leaves. Also avoid warm, blowing air such as from a furnace. Setting the pot on pebbles in a large tray, and keeping water in the reservoir, will help increase winter’s low humidity level, too. Christmas cactus is a tropical plant, and as such proper watering is important. When you water, water thoroughly, making sure water drains from the pot well. But before watering again, make sure the top inch or so of the soil has dried thoroughly, then water completely again. Keep in mind that too much or too little water will cause flower buds to drop off.
Fragrant Jasmine: Jasmine is a tropical vine, and is treated as a houseplant in areas outside of its native Southeast Asia. But the heavenly scent keeps people coming back. In order to set buds, the plant needs temperatures that are consistently lower than 65 degrees Fahrenheit in an area with very little direct sun. After buds are set, however, the plant can be brought into a warmer location of the house to sit in an east window. As with other plants, humidity (or lack thereof) is an issue, and a water-and-pebble tray or a humidifier is needed to keep your plant happiest (just make sure the pot isn’t sitting in water; soggy roots will kill the plant).
Kalanchoe: If you feel you have a “black thumb,” kalanchoe might be the plant for you. This succulent requires short winter days to bloom, and is very forgiving with a high tolerance for a wide variety of care. It does, however, require a south facing window with full sun for proper growth and best blooming. And like most houseplants, don’t over water. In fact, in winter you can almost let the plant dry out; this is preferable to watering too much.
Streptocarpus: This little-known gem (also called cape primrose) has a flower resembling an orchid, which lasts a long time indoors. The plant is related to African violets, and also require the indirect, bright light that an east-facing window provides. Only water the plants when the top inch of soil or so is dry; as with other plants, watering too often will cause the plant to rot. Even less water is required in winter. A fertilizer geared towards enhancing African violet blooms will work for this plant, too!
With this wide selection of indoor bloomers, you won’t lack for winter color. Many of these varieties are also very forgiving to those who feel they are not good at growing houseplants. Once you are able to place a pot of blooming African violets or paperwhite narcissus on your table when a snow storm is blowing, you’ll be glad you took the time!